Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A foreigner view: Magic of Easter on Hvar

By Paul Bradbury

Photo provided by Miranda Milicic Bradbury

While Hvar is famous for its sun, beaches and party atmosphere, is it nightlife of a very different kind which contributes to the most fascinating night of the year on the island - Maundy Thursday. No loud clubbing here, but the singing continues through the night until 7am, as six simultaneous processions return to their starting points in Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska, having walked 22km through the night, praying and chanting and following a barefoot cross-bearer as part of a UNESCO-protected 500 year-old tradition.

As a foreigner here for several years, Easter is my favourite time of year and provides a unique insight into life here, which is missed by many tourists. It is not so much the procession itself (although it is a phenomenon in its own right) as the atmosphere and joy which pervades the whole island, with Easter always being both a celebration and the unofficial end of the long winter.

It is, above all, a family occasion, with the island's students and young professionals returning home from Zagreb and elsewhere, to celebrate this religiously important festival. The cafes are brimming with chatter and laughter, as friends and family catch up over an espresso or two. Many bars and restaurants open for the season, and there is a vibrancy about the island, as it comes to life after the quiet winter.

It is a time of light as well, and the tradition of lighting every house during the procession bathes the town in brightness through the night, a fabulous sight to see as one enters the town. There is a special light for the house for the honoured position of cross-bearer, a huge illuminated cross in front of the house during the whole Easter period.

The procession takes about 8 hours, as the cross-bearer, accompanied by his acolytes in white robes, the religious congregation and many tourists, depart the six towns and villages and visit the other five locations through the night, stopping to pray in each village church en route. The sound of the chanting in the distance at different times through the night is magical, and sleep is somehow an afterthought, but the most special moment of all is about 0630 as the Jelsa congregation passes, chanting, directly under our terrace before descending down to the main square. It is the most amazing wake-up call and summons one immediately to the terrace where one emerges into bright early-morning sunshine and a Jelsa bathed in light.

Words cannot truly convey the magic of the Easter Procession in Jelsa, which has taken place every year uninterrupted since 1510. It has to be experienced, and it is an experience that will remain one of your most abiding memories of Hvar. Suncani Hvar Hotels understand this and have a spectacular Easter offer at Hotel Adriana, which is a true combination of tradition and luxury. The 4-day spa break includes transfers and participation in the procession, which is probably the most magical and memorable Hvar nightlife of all.

For more information on the Suncani Hvar Hotels Easter on Hvar offer, visit the Suncani Hvar website.

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